Responding to an Active Killer
From the Bible
If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him (Exodus 22:2).
*Note: Using deadly force to defend one’s home is permitted in the Law.
Then said Eliakim ... unto Rabshakeh, “... talk not with us in the Jews’ language in the ears of the people that are on the wall.” (2 Chronicles 18:26).
*Armed defenders were on the wall when the city was threatened.
“Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people ...” (Ezekiel 33:2-3).
*Note: Watchmen in a tower or on a wall should warn of attacks.
And I said unto them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot; and while they stand by, let them shut the doors, and bar them: and appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, every one in his watch, and every one to be over against his house” (Nehemiah 7:3).
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews ... (John 20:19).
*Note: Shutting and locking gates and doors is a security measure.
And the guard stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, round about the king, from the right corner of the temple to the left corner of the temple, along by the altar and the temple (2 Kings 11:11).
*Note: Levites stood guard in the Temple against a known threat.
In Evil Invades Sanctuary, Carl Chinn tells about evil killers bringing violent death into places dedicated to peace and life. We need to be ready to respond in case someone comes to our church intending to kill. Be alert, discern signs of trouble, be ready to lock out the killer, to evacuate people, and to lock down occupied rooms, and to confront the killer - whatever is called for.
In the News
Not all the assailants in the stories used guns. Two used knives.
San Jose, California, November 22, 2020 - In a San Jose church providing sleeping space for 40-50 homeless persons, one of them stabbed four others, killing two. A fifth wounded person was a staff member trying to stop the violence. The suspect, who often slept at the church, sometimes helped with serving the others. He also had a long criminal history, including three deportations and arrests for assault. News stories had no mentions of security measures for the sheltered homeless persons.
*Note: This makes a case for using security measures with risky persons.
Nashville, Tennessee, November 7, 2021 - Man who was an occasional attender but not a member, pulled out a handgun near the end of the Sunday morning service, went to the front, and waved it threateningly at the congregation. The pastor tackled him from behind and was joined by others in holding him down and releasing his weapon.
* Note: Someone acted decisively.
Papillion, Nebraska, November 18, 2021 - On a Thursday afternoon, a man wielded a knife in a church. The pastor and the secretary locked themselves in the office and called 911. Police called for lockdowns at three nearby schools as officers were on their way. The man was arrested as he left the church.
* Note: This was during weekday office hours. How did the armed man get in? At least the staff knew about lockdowns.
Aurora, Colorado, February 4, 2022 - About 8 pm at a Friday night event in an Aurora church, a man shot three adults. A 36-year-old woman was killed, and two pastors, aged 40 and 43, were wounded. According to police, he knew at least one of the victims. The shooter then fled.
The following Wednesday, police responded to reports of gunfire in a parking lot. The suspect left the scene and carjacked two vehicles. The officers caught up with him, and he died in a shootout. He was the church killer.
* Note: The news stories do not say, but it appears that the pastors were either intervening in a dispute or trying to disarm the man.
March's featured resources are a special interview (Kris with Simon), a free downloadable resource (Active Shooter Situation Checklist), a Church Security Guide article ("Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training"), and a training module in the Safety Member Certification program ("Active Shooter Response v4").
Kris's Interview with Simon Osamoh
On November 11, 2021, Sheepdog Church Security posted Kris Moloney's "Special Interview with Simon Osamoh."
British-born Simon had almost 13 years of law enforcement experience in the United Kingdom before moving to the United States in 2011. His experience here includes being head of security at the nation's largest mall and a security executive for two major banks. He founded Kingswood Security Consulting in 2014 to help non-profits and churches with security. In 2017 he started Worship Security Association to educate churches on security issues.
In their videoed interview, Kris and Simon discussed the application of situational awareness to active killer incidents. Situational awareness alerts the safety team member to a developing violent situation. Clues include indications of a concealed weapon, clothing suggestive of an assailant, and behavioral clues. One highlighted behavioral warning sign is violation of social norms.
Active Shooter Situation Checklist
This PDF has a printable checklist which can be posted inside classrooms, offices, and small assembly areas. Following information about active shooters, it tells teachers, activity leaders, and office staff what to do in case of an active shooter incident: "If you hear gunshots, firecracker-like sounds, or the prearranged phrase, quickly determine the best alternative to protect your life and those of people with you" (evacuation or lockdown). After this are specific guides for evacuation and for a lockdown.
Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training
The Church Security Guide has a tab on the Sheepdog Church Security menu bar. In it are nine articles, including "Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training." This is a deep overview of an essential topic, which would be helpful to someone about to take the training module "Active Shooter Response v4."
Active Shooter Response
This is the second of seven training modules in the Safety Member Certification program. Church Safety Teams are encouraged to have all their members trained and certified. When a person goes through all the training modules and passes the certification test for each one, he or she will be certified as a Safety Member for two years.
Why for two years? It is beneficial to refresh training. Continuing education is required of all or most certified professionals. First, it refreshes what they've already learned. Second, it advances their knowledge and skills. Third, it updates their training with new information and skills.
There are three available modes of instruction. Each mode has its own advantages.
Team training (classroom)
This is ideal for training the entire Safety Team together, whether for the team startup or for refresher courses. One advantage is the interaction with the instructor and other students.
Individual Training (online courses)
When a new member joins the Safety Team, immediate training is needed. With online courses, the new member does not have to wait several months or over a year for a class. This is also an option for a member who cannot attend a class in person.
Online Events (live Zoom classes)
Sheepdog Church now has live Zoom classes (Online Events) with Kris Moloney as the instructor. This combines some of the advantages of Team Training an Individual Training. A team can enroll several members at one time. An individual can enroll. There is some interaction.
There are two semesters a year of Online Events with a class every two or three weeks. When this article is posted, the fourth module of the 2022 Spring Semester will be finished. The 2022 Fall Semester begins October 6.
Responding to an Active Killer
To respond to an active killer, we must first know that one is there. Then there are different responses for the Safety Team, the Medical Response Team (if you have one), and non-team persons. Roles change when emergency responders arrive, beginning with law enforcement.
Knowing What's Going on
Rarely - very rarely - are violent church assaults announced ahead of time. However, many times a threat is made, and it's not always sent to the church. Several times, one or a few individuals were killed or wounded, but it can be a general massacre as happened in Sutherland Springs, Texas in 2017. Therefore, it is critical that people in the church have enough confidence in church leadership that if they receive a threat they will share it immediately with a pastor or elder. Then the church leader should pass the knowledge of a threat to the Safety Ministry and the Safety Team could be alerted to the probability of an attack, even if there is no specific day.
Know your city, neighborhood, and people. Be aware of the kinds of violent activity in the local population. This is especially true of mental illness and domestic violence, the two leading causes of church shootings.
Real care for the mentally ill within the church community (its members, attenders, and their families) means getting them the help they need, at least through referral - with follow-up. Watch these people for signs of trouble and be ready to de-escalate problem situations. Sometimes you may have to summon serious help, even from social services or law enforcement.
Be aware of domestic violence and build enough of a trust relationship that the abused person can confide in you. Be alert for the offender who comes in.
Watch for signs that someone is a likely threat. Are there signs of a weapon? Are there behavioral indicators? The shooter at West Freeway Church of Christ caught the attention of the security team and was closely watched.
Watch the parking lot and the campus. Several church shootings begin in the parking lot, a back alley, a side street, or the grounds. Outdoor monitoring may include parking lot attendants. There should be outdoor cameras. Have the Safety Team member in the foyer frequently look out the windows. Is someone trying to sneak up to the church? Is a person dressed for battle approaching with a weapon at the ready? The New Life Church shooter shot several people in the parking lot, killing two, before going into the building. The Antioch church shooter's lone fatality was in the parking lot. The Sutherland Springs shooter first fired at the church from outside.
Lockout and Lockdown
If an active killer is detected outside, the first objective is to keep him out. Lock all outside doors. This is easier done if the only unlocked doors are those attended by a Safety Team member or a trained greeter/usher. Electronic access control makes this easier. One push of a button and all outside doors are locked. This bypasses the risk of one unlocked door.
Locking the doors is not an absolute guarantee that the shooter is kept outside. A heavily armed individual with a high-powered weapon may be able to shoot his way in, especially if he can keep armed safety team members at bay. However, the locked doors and security coating on glass can delay him long enough to evacuate most of the church through exits on the opposite side of the church.
If the attack (whether a firearm or an edged weapon) begins inside, call for a lockdown. All classroom, nursery, childcare, and office doors will be locked, barricaded if possible. Occupants take cover within the room. Silence all phones. Turn off the lights. Be quiet. Stay out of line from windows, especially one on the door. If there are two doors, try to be between them. If the killer breaks in one door, go out the other.
If in a lockdown, stay in the room until the police let you out. They'll do that when they are satisfied that there is no more threat. This avoids confusion. What may happen if you pop into the hall while cops are approaching with guns drawn?
Run, Hide, Fight
There is something the intended victims of an active killer can do: Run, Hide, Fight. The phrase was picked up by the Office of Emergency Management in Houston, Texas. They had a video made dramatizing an active shooter situation in a busy office building. For those in the building, the options were Run or Hide or Fight. Run means escape, evacuate if you can. Hide means get out of sight, preferably behind cover (something to stop or deflect bullets). If you are trapped and have to face the shooter, Fight.
This video is made available by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and is required watching in many workplaces, schools, and government offices around the country.
Contain and Engage
When alerted to an active killer, the Safety Team separates into an Engagement Team and a Containment Team. The Containment Team keeps the killer out of certain areas, such as the children's section and the sanctuary (the team can set up an ambush to neutralize the killer coming in). The Engagement Team focuses on neutralizing the killer one way or another.
Drills are key to effectively responding to a mass killer. For one thing, you actively train your senses and responses through action. For another thing, no amount of classroom or online instruction can totally prepare you for "the blood, the gore, the sounds of war." Kris discussed this issue with Carl Chinn in "Stress Inoculation." Carl told of how the sensory input of a battle can overwhelm a person - the noise, the blood, the smells. He said simulating the stimuli in drills will prepare team members to deal with the reality of a mass casualty event.
The Law Is Here
Most mass shooting incidents are over before law enforcement arrives, but sometimes they come to an active scene. Either way, when the police get there, they're in charge.
When police arrive, have someone at the door to meet them and brief them on the current situation. Among things they should know are:
- Whether the killer is active or neutralized.
- Where the killer is.
- Where the Safety Team is.
- Whether anyone is armed.
Obey the officers' commands. Drop all weapons. Do not make sudden movements. Keep your hands visible. Don't yell or scream. Answer their questions.
Let the police do the investigation. You may make some notes, but don't fill out your incident report until you come off your high.
Are you ready to respond if and when Evil (an active shooter) invades your sanctuary?
There Is More
March has four articles, this one and three others: "The 2012 World Changers Church Shooting" (Lesson Learned from a Church Shooting), "Violation of Sanctity" (Killers Invade Sanctuaries), and "Building the Wall" (Preparing for an Active Killer).
- Kris Moloney, "Active Shooter Response v4," Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/].
- Carl Chinn, Evil Invades Sanctuary, ISBN: 061565788, Snowfall Press, © 2012.
- Julian Glover and Luz Peña, "San Jose pastor 'stunned' after stabbing spree at church sanctuary kills 2, wounds 3," ABC7 News (KGO), November 23, 2020 [https://abc7news.com/san-jose-stabbing-grace-baptist-church-sj-police-crime/8199429/].
- News Staff, "UPDATE: Police Detail San Jose Church Stabbing Suspect's Violent Criminal History, Repeat Deportations," KPIX (CBS SF), November 25, 2020 [https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2020/11/25/update-police-identify-san-jose-church-stabbing-suspect-detail-lengthy-criminal-history/].
- Nikki McGee and Ethan Illers, "Pastor speaks after disarming man who pulled gun at North Nashville church service," WKRN, November 7, 2021, updated November 8, 2021 [https://www.wkrn.com/news/crime-tracker/pastor-stops-man-who-pulled-gun-at-north-nashville-church-service/].
- KMTV Staff, "Three schools were on lockout following incident at Wildewood Christian Church in Papillion," 3 News Now (KMTV), November 18, 2021 [https://www.3newsnow.com/news/local-news/heavy-police-presence-near-la-vista-middle-school-hickory-hill-schools-on-lockout].
- Staff news writer, "One person killed and 2 wounded in shooting inside a church in Aurora, Colorado, police say," Radio KNBR, February 4, 2022 [https://www.knbr.com/news/one-person-killed-and-2-wounded-in-shooting-inside-a-church-in-aurora-colorado-police-say/].
- Blair Miller and Sydney Isenberg, "Suspect in deadly Aurora church shooting killed in police shooting following crime spree," The Denver Channel (TV 7), February 9, 2022, updated February 10, 2022 [https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/suspect-shot-in-police-shooting-in-southeast-aurora].
- Simon Osamoh, "Profile," LinkedIn [https://www.linkedin.com/in/simonosamoh/].
- Kris Moloney and Simon Osamoh, "CSRC Special Interview with Simon," Church Security Roll Call on YouTube, November 11, 2021 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3E48EUV3w0&list=PLiGluOUZx7Rd5tLJgcNnVPTcmo_hPwbsp&index=1&t=26s].
- Kris Moloney, "Active Shooter Situation Checklist," Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 [https://sheepdog-church-security.ck.page/35d259d229].
- Kris Moloney, "Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training," Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 [https://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/active-shooter/].
- Silvia Foster-Frau, "Sutherland Springs killer had earlier threatened his mother-in-law," AP News, February 7, 2018 [https://apnews.com/article/32addeaa40ee4c67aa0a2beec6571f0c].
- "West Freeway Church of Christ shooting," Wikipedia [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Freeway_Church_of_Christ_shooting].
- "2007 Colorado YWAM and New Life shootings," Wikipedia [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Colorado_YWAM_and_New_Life_shootings].
- "Burnette Chapel shooting," Wikipedia [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burnette_Chapel_shooting].
- "Sutherland Springs church shooting," Wikipedia [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutherland_Springs_church_shooting].
- Ready Houston, "Run, Hide, Fight," Office of Emergency Management, City of Houston, May 30, 2017 [https://youtu.be/VYWQxwm0sSM].
- Kris Moloney and Carl Chinn, "CSRC287: Sheepdog Interview - Stress Inoculation," Sheepdog Church Security Roll Call, November 29, 2021 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgp2Wp94J1c&list=PLiGluOUZx7Rd5tLJgcNnVPTcmo_hPwbsp&index=2].